Marigold Uses in the Garden and on the Table

Marigolds help control insects in a garden plot, look pretty in a centerpiece, and make a bright and nutritious addition to your dinner plate.


| July/August 1983



082-195-01

Marigolds not only make for beautiful decor and effective pest control in your garden, they're also colorful and nutritious additions to your table.


PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

The bright marigolds flanking my doorway and alternating with the vegetables in my garden provide much more than a cheerful bit of color. Indeed, marigold uses are so wide-ranging that their function as decor is almost surpassed by their other services! 

Most gardeners are aware that marigolds' pungent flowers and foliage discourage many insects from feasting on nearby crops. But even the odorless varieties are effective: Planted as a border around the garden or in rows next to the vegetables, they act as a trap crop for Japanese beetles. Since those noxious insects like to congregate on the flowers, the gardener simply can shake the collected pests into a can of kerosene, where they'll expire. 

Meanwhile, the marigolds are just as hard at work underground, controlling nematodes (those tiny, eel-like worms that attack the roots of plants). While scientists can't explain how the plants affect the subterranean spoilers, they do admit that marigolds are effective! In comparing the soil of two plots, one with marigolds and one without, researchers at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (and at other agricultural labs as well) discovered 75% to 85% fewer nematodes in the flowered plot. Apparently, a substance is exuded from the little plants that deters these almost invisible crop-destroyers. 

Edible Marigolds

Toward the end of the growing season, I often pull up most of my marigolds and feed both them and their collection of beetles to the chickens and the pigs. However, the blooms are edible not only for livestock, but for humans, too! Dried and crumbled petals can pinch-hit for oh-so-expensive saffron in casseroles, breads, and omelets, adding a unique, subtle flavor to these dishes. Stir-fried—alone or with vegetables—the petals add zip to any meal. They're also colorful and tasty in rice, soups, or stews, or when sprinkled on salads. Furthermore, the flowers are nutritious! They contain carotene, which can be converted in humans to vitamin A. 

I'm always looking for good substitutes for store-bought items, so after trying the petals in cookery, I decided to experiment with them as a tea! To prepare it, I harvested plump flowers and separated the petals from the green calyxes. I put the petals into a warm teapot (2 teaspoons of flowers per cup of liquid), poured just-boiled water over them, steeped the blooms for 5 minutes, and strained out the blossoms. 

The brew was beautifully colored, but—as it turned out—bland in flavor. So this year I'm growing quantities of peppermint, which has wonderful flavor but no color worth speaking of. Together, the marigold petals and mint leaves should make a drink that appeals to the senses of both taste and sight! 





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